In an era of ebooks and POD (Print on Demand, also digital printing), it may seem old fashioned to discuss bidding a book for an offset print run. But regular printing still happens more often than not – especially when we’re talking about color printing, which is still not practically priced in the POD realm. I thought I’d show what goes into a print bid and how to evaluate the responses you get back. We’ve already discussed an all-text book in Part I.
Step 1: the RFQ (Request for Quote)
You’ll discover that there are few color printers in North America. That means you’ll probably deal with a broker who works with a Chinese printer (there are a few printers in India, as well). For a large listing of printers, see this useful website. Also, ask other publishers for recommendations. Know that problems almost always crop up in printing. It’s how the printer treats you and the problem that can be a determining factor, not just price.
Here’s what you need to send to the printer:
This is where you put the title. Let’s call this one NEWBIES ARE GREAT
You don’t just have to have 1 amount here. You can see where you’ll get your best price break in different increments. I request 2000, 3000 and 5000. Remember that that as the number printed goes up, the price per book will go down. But you should balance that savings out with knowing that you’ll be making a large up-front investment and have to warehouse those books until they are sold.
This is not only the body of the book, but the frontmatter and all blank pages fore and aft. This must be divisible by 8 (called a signature), because that’s how they figure the sheet size. For our purposes, let’s say: 228. Note that children’s picture books should not exceed 34 pages.
You can get a lot of different sizes. But offsize books—particularly large ones—get shelved in unexpected places instead of on the shelf with similar titles. If you can, size your book the way all other books in the genre are. For Trade paperbacks and hardback books, that means 5″ x 8″ or 6″ x 9″. For our purposes, let’s say 6″ x 9″ (bind on 9″ side or “portrait”).
Here’s where you decide if you want paperback or hardback with a dust jacket. Let’s say Trade paperback (a mass market paperback is smaller, and is printed in large quantities, 20,000 and up)
If you are doing a hardback book, you’ll choose between cloth, which is traditional but pricey, or wrapped in Rainbow paper. I advise Rainbow. You can choose what color matches your dustjacket, but the default color is black. You’ll also choose whether you want adhesive bound or Smyth-sewn. Adhesive bound wears just fine – libraries use it to rebind covers. But you may want a nicer fit and finish, which will require spending extra for Smyth-sewn
For most books, 80 lbs paper (expressed 80#) is fine. You can down to 100#, but this is often too thin – especially if you are printing lots of pictures. I advise white in all cases
Four Color interior is usual, although you can have a Duotone book, which is black and white overlayed with a thin wash of color. This is usual in art photography books.
You can choose cover weights for Trade paperback of 80# or 100#. I like 80#, as it gives just enough weight. 100# seems flimsy to me. You also need to let them know if you will be printing on one or both sides (the latter being rare and pricey). This is expressed as C1S (Coat 1 side) or C2S (Coat 2 sides). If you want embossing, foil stamping for the title or other fancy things, here’s where to put them.
For a dustjacket, you’ll want to specify a 100# C1S, but just the right weight to allow for the flaps to fold neatly. I order 10% extra dustjackets, as returns often have torn djs. Also, they make nice looking promo pieces.
You’ll mostly do a full color cover. This is expressed 4/4, since there are 4 colors used to make the full spectrum. The colors Cyan (blue), Magenta (red), Yellow and Key (black) are expressed CMYK. You’ll also want a UV film laminate to keep the cover from fading. I choose gloss, as it scuffs less, but you can choose matte for artistic purposes (NOTE: matte scuffs badly, so have a reason to choose it)
Do not offer them anything other than a PDF. Your files should have been created in a typesetting program like InDesign. If it’s in Microsoft Word, there will be trouble in making this into a book. Ask for a digital proof of the book; this is a mock-up of the book with the cover, so that you can check to make sure the cover and book block are fitting together correctly, and that there are no problems with missing pages or weird printing issues. Keep in mind that if the problem was created by the printers, it’s free to fix it. If it’s your issue that you need to fix, it’ll cost you $35 per page (or more). Frequently, a fix on page x will lead to the next 2-10 pages changing. It adds up quickly. Decide if you can live with that typo on page 35.
I specify shrink-wrapping in 4s (or 2s for a bigger book). This makes shipping multiple books easy and clean. Yes, this costs extra. You can also specify the container the books are packed in. I ask for the books to be packed in cartons of no more than 25 lbs because I have a bad back, and the number of books per carton is usually in a range wholesalers like when they order in quantity.
This is where you tell them where it will be delivered. Keep in mind that prices are higher for residential than for a business address, so you may want to have the pallet delivered to a friend’s business. Did I mention that the books will come stacked in cartons on a pallet 4′ x 4′ and up to 4′ tall? Make sure you have a secure, dry space to put the books and their pallet. I don’t advise putting them in your house, as glues and inks may cause asthmatics or those with breathing difficulties problems. Give your zip code. If necessary, specify that you need a liftgate truck, or if you need to be called prior to delivery.
So your RFQ looks like this:
Project Title: NEWBIES ARE GREAT
Quantities: Please quote 2000, 3000 and 5000
Size: 6 x 9 (portrait)
Binding: Trade paperback
Text paper: 80# white offset
Text Ink: 4/4 color
Cover: 80# C1S
Cover Ink: 4/4 CMYK UV Gloss Film Laminate
Prepress: Print-ready PDF files; Digital Proof required
Packing: shrink-wrapped in 4s, packed in cartons of no more than 25 lbs.
Delivery: Business address 89502. Liftgate truck requested. Must call prior to delivery.
Send this to at least 4-8 printers. I send these individually, but printers do know that they are competing against other companies. You should have bids within a week.
In Part III we’ll examine how to evaluate the bids you receive.